Rituals for Babies
uttering the phrase "bedtime" send your toddler into squeals
of hysterical protest? Do you sink onto your sheets in grateful
exhaustion each night, only to hear the plaintive call of "Mommy"
as your child creeps through your bedroom door? Then you are in
desperate need of these terrific tips, designed to end every mom's
epic struggle for a good night's rest.
bedtime and the ritual that surrounds it consistent to establish
a familiar routine, security, predictability, and an end to negotiations.
active play and exercise into your child's day to ensure that by
bedtime he's ready to sleep.
a calm period after dinner, whether that means reading before bed,
cuddling, telling stories, or taking a bath. Make the half an hour
before bed a transition time that quiets down your child and prepares
him for bed.
your child plenty of notice as bedtime approaches, so he can begin
the transition and end at his pace whatever activity in which he's
a timer for starting the bedtime routine if you find yourself engaged
in power struggles.
your child some control over his bedtime routine - allow him some
choices, like between two books or pairs of pajamas.
a chart with pictures of everything that needs to be done before
bed. This way your child can start working on these himself, from
putting on pajamas to brushing his teeth, to picking up toys on
his bedroom floor.
As a treat for your child in the winter, warm pajamas in the dryer
for a few minutes to make them cozy, but make sure buttons and other
metal parts don't get too hot.
a time for lights out, and stick as close to it as possible.
you work, resist the urge to allow your child to stay up later to
spend time with him. This will only make him cranky if he has to
get up early for school or day care. Even on a weekend, this will
throw off his schedule.
bedtime earlier if your child has difficulty getting up for day
care or school in the morning.
your child when a special occasion is coming that allows or
requires him to stay up later than usual, and let him know when
bedtime will return to normal again.
not offer a later bedtime as a reward for good behavior or an earlier
bedtime as punishment for bad behavior, to ensure that your child
does not begin to associate sleep with punishment. Keep the message
clear that sleep is a way to let your child's body energize itself
for the next day.
your child habitually gets out of bed after having been tucked in
for the night:
sure he has water nearby if he is thirsty, and a night-light or
low-watt light on if he's concerned about the dark.
lead your child back to bed, quietly remind him it is bedtime and
tell him you will check back in awhile.
contact and conversation. Repeat the process as many times as necessary
without making a production of it.
your child wants you in the room with him, compromise by offering
to stay in the hallway until he falls asleep.
him with stars, stickers, and extra stories at night for not getting
out of bed. Communicate the message that you refuse to waver on
bedtime, and that pleas and entreaties will not buy more stories,
television, play time, or grown-up attention.
2006, Mom Central, Inc.
Permission granted for reprints
Stacy DeBroff, best-selling parenting author of The Mom Book Goes
to School: Insider Tips to Ensure Your Child Thrives in Elementary
and Middle School, and founder of www.MomCentral.com